Once upon a time, the 2014-15 Milwaukee Bucks were winning games thanks to their defense and in spite of their offense. Lately? Well, believe it or not but they've been competing thanks mostly to their improved offense -- 11th in the league over the last 10 games, compared to their defense ranking just 22nd. So what happens when they get it right on both ends of the court? Just ask the Miami Heat.
With a brutal Western road trip beckoning, the Bucks put it all together against the Heat on Friday, shooting 57% from the field and destroying Miami 45-20 on the glass en route to a 109-85 win at the Bradley Center. Kendall Marshall's surprising 20 points (7/8 fg, 4/5 threes) led the way as the Bucks' bench provided yet another dominating performance, outscoring Miami's reserves 60-18. Jabari Parker (6/9 fg, 3 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl), Giannis Antetokounmpo (3/8 fg, 8/11 ft, 7 reb, 2 blk) and Khris Middleton (6/9 fg, 6 rebs, 3 ast) each added 14 points, with Giannis also adding to his personal highlight reel with a monster slam on Chris Bosh. Dwyane Wade was terrific for the Heat (28 points on 18 shots, 8 assists), but the Bucks contained Bosh on the perimeter (21 points on 23 shots) and the rest of the Heat offered little to no support.
The flow of the game bore a fair bit of resemblance to the Bucks' three wins last week, as things were competitive for three-plus quarters before the Bucks simply overwhelmed Miami late. With the Heat leading 69-67 late in the third, Parker fed Antetokounmpo for a monster slam (and foul), kickstarting a 15-2 run that blew the game wide open. Getting the Heat into the penalty certainly helped, as the Bucks were a perfect 11/11 in the third before Marshall's 10 fourth quarter points kept the Heat from mounting any sort of comeback.
Wade's invention had given Miami a promising start, with the former Marquette star's nine early points helping the Heat to a 30-25 first quarter lead. Two three-point plays from Bosh allowed Miami to extend its lead to 36-25 early in the second, but the Bucks' reserves immediately fought back -- which you expected, right? Outscoring the Miami bench by a 26-9 margin in the first two quarter, the reserve unit was central to the Bucks closing the half on a 29-14 run that staked Milwaukee to a 54-50 halftime intermission.
Sanders ill. Larry Sanders was thought to be a late scratch due to illness, but he came off the bench to provide six points and six boards in 18 solid minutes.
Jabari. Parker got off to another fast start with 10 first quarter points, getting free for a dunk on a nicely-diagrammed opening play of the game and working opportunistically the rest of the period. But he was fairly quiet the rest of the way, taking just two shots over the final 36 minutes despite the Bucks repeatedly trying to work through him in the post in the third quarter. Part of that can be attributed to the bench playing so well; both Jared Dudley and Khris Middleton earned extended minutes with their work on both ends, a nice kind of problem that Jason Kidd has only recently had to confront.
Defensively, Jabari was only rarely challenged in man coverage (Josh McRoberts took one shot in 22 minutes) and found himself in the right place at the right time in collecting three steals. Still, there were a number of occasions where he could have done something as a help defender but instead offered absolutely nothing. Definitely an area where he'll have to improve significantly if he's ever going to become a superstar-caliber guy.
Giannis. A nice bounce-back effort will make Giannis' 20th birthday on Saturday an especially sweet one. After avoiding jump shots like the plague over the last month, Giannis seemed intent on being more aggressive with open looks as he fired up a pair of early jumpers...both of which missed. So he got back to attacking the rim thereafter, earning 11 free throw attempts, nabbing seven boards and swatting a pair of Heat shots. He also did a nice job hounding Wade at various points in the second half, reiterating the defensive versatility we're seeing more and more regularly.
Rebounds. Miami entered the game as the league's worst rebounding team, and it showed.
Random note from tonight's game: Miami's 20 total rebounds were the fewest ever for a Bucks opponent (h/t/ @EliasSports)— Bucks PR (@BucksPR) December 6, 2014
Fast breakin'. The only obvious negative for the Bucks came in the turnover department -- Milwaukee turned it over a whopping 24 times, with Zaza Pachulia and Brandon Knight (who battled foul trouble) each coughing it up five times and Marshall adding four. But the Heat never made the Bucks pay in transition, as Milwaukee instead ran riot on the break with a 24-6 scoring advantage. It helps when you've got a dude who can do this:
Giannis 1000 feet in 2 steps, etc https://t.co/r9ZkaepoyU— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) December 6, 2014